History books fail to mention just how many Sad Adult Men were wandering around in Colonial America. It’s all revolution and tossing tea into harbors and having rap battles about national debt — but not much about all the brooding going on. Fear not! Outlander has us covered in that regard. Listen, I’m not trying to belittle or make fun of the reasons the three Sad Boys are so sad in “Famous Last Words,” but there did come a point in this episode when I desperately wanted War Nurse Claire to walk out and be like “give it a rest, we’re all sad!” As we all know, the English are great about all that “keep calm and carry on” stuff. Unfortunately, Claire’s been mostly sidelined this season even though she is literally keeping Fraser’s Ridge alive with her DIY penicillin. But that rage is for me to take out on my TV by myself. So, what are the Sad Adult Men sad about? Let’s talk about it.
It’s been three months since the tragedies that befell the Frasers at the Battle of Alamance. Of course Jamie is still a complete mess over losing Murtagh — we all are. Aunt Jocasta is at the Ridge to visit Murtagh’s grave (he’s still watching over Jamie, I am a human shell) and destroy all of us emotionally with a line so devastating I’m honestly mad at it: “How careful we’d be if we kent which good-byes were our last,” she lovingly says to her nephew before leaving for River Run. Jamie’s so deep in his sadness that he even asks Claire if there’s a medicine he could take that would eat away at his grief. But there is not — there is only time.
Jamie isn’t the Sad Man we’re most concerned about at the moment, though. That distinction goes to Roger. As many people surmised (and book readers knew), Roger survived his hanging at the hands of Governor Tryon, who wanted to make an example out of Regulator prisoners, not knowing Roger was amongst them. The episode has a “silent movie” theme to tie into a flash to Oxford in 1969, when Roger and Bree would see silent movies and teach history classes about famous last words because our words define us. Every time Roger flashes back to that awful day at Alamance, it’s done like a silent film. It seems wholly unnecessary and distracts from the intensity of what’s being depicted, but sure. Let’s go with a silent-movie theme.
Three months after Claire saves Roger’s life, Roger is physically fine, but he still hasn’t spoken one word since it happened and is extremely withdrawn. Claire and Bree have an interesting conversation about shell shock — Claire knows it from her time in War World II, Bree knows vets from Vietnam — since in neither of their times has the term PTSD started being used. But that’s what is wrong with Roger, he’s suffering from PTSD. And suffering a whole lot. He keeps replaying what happened over and over. In true “Outlander loves to hammer home the trauma” fashion, we have to watch his hanging repeatedly. I get that we’re supposed to be inside Roger’s pain, but wow show, once was more than enough.
Everyone is worried about Roger, but none more than Bree, who has to watch her husband zombie it up day in and day out. She knows he has lost his voice, “his gift” (and now we know why Outlander had Roger singing so much this season). She tries to remind him that she, too, has been through something so unspeakable that she “wanted to crawl into a hole and die.” That sometimes she still does. But she knew she had to fight for her son and her husband and she needs Roger to do that for her. But she gets nothing out of him except for the one time he screams “don’t!” when Jemmy almost touches a hot tea kettle. When Lord John Grey arrives with a “sorry I hanged your son-in-law, my bad” letter (and an astrolabe!) for Jamie from Tryon, Bree doesn’t care about the five acres of land the governor gifts her and Roger for his little whoopsie-daisy. She just wants her husband back.
But wait! Who is this Third Sad Man, you ask? Well, one day, while Jamie and Claire are out in the woods playing with Jemmy and just being the hottest grandparents you’ve ever seen, a wild boar jumps out of the brush. Jamie is pretty quick with his knife, but he doesn’t need to be: An arrow comes flying through the air and takes that boar down. You guys, Young Ian is back.
Jamie and Claire are beyond excited to see him, but Ian has changed. It’s not just his appearance, either — his entire demeanor is different. He’s quiet and aloof. Part of it is surely the transition between living amongst the Mohawk and then moving into the Big House at Fraser’s Ridge. But it becomes clear it is much, much more than that.
Ian has two very interesting conversations while settling in at Fraser’s Ridge. The first is with his uncle, who finds him sleeping outside one morning, unable to get comfortable in a bed. Oh, sweet Jamie, it’s breaking his heart to see Ian so unlike himself and he wants his nephew to know that he’s there to listen if he wants to talk about what happened with the Mohawk (he is adamant that he won’t be returning, but won’t say more). Ian is thankful, but not ready to talk about it. “There are things you keep hidden from others — you and Claire both,” he adds. Hm, I wonder what he could be talking about, maybe coughtimetravelcough? Regardless, Jamie says he’ll sit there next to Ian for a little bit, just to be there for him, with him. Honestly, this man, folks. THIS MAN.
Ian also has a stoop chat with the very pregnant Marsali. She’s going on and on about how insane it is to be raising two kids with a third on the way on top of all of her duties at the Ridge, and Ian’s response is about how children are “only lent to us for a short time by the Creator.” Marsali could honestly talk to anyone, so she breezes over that comment and goes on to chat about missing their families back in Scotland, but feeling so happy and at home here. She’s so happy Ian will be there to welcome the new baby. Ian doesn’t respond.
Anywho, with a little prodding from both Jamie and Bree, Roger and Ian head out together to check out the land Tryon has given the MacKenzies of Fraser’s Ridge. A real hoot this little surveying party is. Back at the homestead, things aren’t great either: Claire’s upset because she notices that her stash of water hemlock — a very poisonous herb — is missing. She tells Jamie that she’s worried Roger has gone off on this surveying mission with no plans to return. There’s our Claire, trying to figure out how to have a conversation about mental health and depression with an 18th century Scot. Seriously, bless her. Unfortunately, all they can do is wait.
Roger doesn’t seem great. He’s forlornly looking off cliff sides and stuff. He has another flashback to that fateful day, but this time he remembers something new: The last thing he saw before he thought he was going to die was Bree’s face. That’s all he needs to put him on the road to recovery. He wants to get back to his wife and son. He’s ready to start talking again — to start living again. So, it’s not Roger that Claire should be worried about with the water hemlock. It’s Ian.
Roger wakes up one morning and finds Ian gone, and all of his things left there and Rollo (hi, puppy!) tied up. We see Ian off by himself, cooking the hemlock so he can ingest it and literally burying his hatchet, trying to make peace. Roger comes in, kicks over the hemlock before he can drink it and the two men finally talk. After hearing about Roger seeing Bree before he almost died, Ian is even more distraught: Even in death he might not be able to escape the pain of “her.” Ian is scarce on details, but we learn that whoever “she” is, she isn’t dead, just “lost” to Ian and that Ian is still wearing a bracelet that is somehow connected to her. It’s Roger who finally convinces Ian to pick up his weapon, go home, and fight. That’s what Roger’s doing — his weapon is his voice, you see — and until Ian can do it on his own, he can rely on Roger. What a full circle moment here, seeing Roger save Ian’s life.
But Roger has one more important conversation to have: He needs to talk to Bree. He tells her that a part of him died that day and he’ll never be the same. He tells her that she was the last face he saw. He tells her that no matter what, he’ll “always sing” for her. I mean, that last thing is A LOT even for me, lover of romance. And yet, these two deserve a win after everything, don’t they?